Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Steve Jobs' iCity

He's not playing.

Not only is he building a city, but it's going to look like a friggin' UFO.

How many swaths of land in your town could use a revitalization like this? Think about it. How many empty parking lots and abandoned buildings with restricted access exist where you live? How many useless business parks with a bunch of off-white single story boxes occupied by very bored people do you pass everyday? Some of you may even work in them yourselves. How many out-of-date strip malls, or airports, or entire city blocks must we endure? How unimaginative have we been about reclaiming and re-purposing all this space we've misused?

Last year the city of Detroit began a project that I feel is very similar in scope and impact as the new Apple headquarters plan. Because of the cities decline in population and manufacturing during the past few decades, Detroit has begun reclaiming some of its abandoned sections of town and returning them to use for farming and agriculture. When I heard this I thought it was a magnificent idea. It requires an immense amount of grace and humility for a city to admit needing to take a step back to go forward. And really, that's only if one believes that creating farmland is a step back. (Personally, I don't.) It suggests an awareness and understanding of being flexible and responsive to not only the environmental but socioeconomic tides that greatly affect our world, especially in recent times.

Read more about Detroit's project here.

I think Apple's new headquarters is moving along the same path. Yes, the circumstances are much different. Detroit is a city looking to serve its residents, Apple is a corporation whose primary objective is to make profit. But I feel Steve Jobs' approach to building this new headquarters follows a philosophy of developing spaces for human occupancy that cooperate with the environment and the community. He talks about the desire to stay in Cupertino and continuing to pays taxes there. He highlights the fact the new headquarters will increase the amount of landscaping on the property by 350% and that it will have its own power station fueled by cleaner and cheaper means than the public grid. And more than anything, it seems he wants to build a campus that's truly a nice place to be for employees and visitors to Apple's headquarters. Aesthetic awareness seems to be a major emphasis of this project.

I hope one day I'll have an opportunity to actually see or visit this building. I think it will serve as a model of how we in America should begin thinking about the spaces in which we live. And keep in mind, these types of things have been going on in other parts of the world for sometime. I mean, Ferrari practically put a rain forest in their new factory for Christ's sake!

Now if he can just move the assembly of Apple's products back to the US, he might be on to something.

That's right. Look on the back of your iPhone/Pod/Pad/Book/Life. "Assembled in China" never looked so elegant.


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